In a world full of disagreements, one thing we can all agree on is that 2020 was unique for multiple reasons. Not even the WWE was able to escape that reality, despite the company doing their best to make the most of a difficult situation for all.
March 16th, 2020 marked the first time the company was no longer be able to hold attendance for their televised events. Though it took some time for everyone to adjust, the WWE eventually found their footing. Aside from moving to the positively received “ThunderDome”, the company has been able to produce intriguing television for viewers.
In this segment, we will review moments that sorely missed having a live crowd reaction:
10. Austin 3:16 Day
It’s only fitting to kick off the list with the first audience-less event to the surprise of many. After the hype building up to welcoming back Steve Austin to be honored by the company, we weren’t sure how this event would turn out. Welcoming Austin back without a pop live at the Performance Center felt strangely awkward. Austin cutting a promo without those polarizing chants helped reality set in for many. Even if the event occurred during the ThunderDome era, nothing would have been able to replace the live organic reaction Austin produces each time.
9. Retribution Leader Revealed
Truthfully, we might be able to chalk up the entire Retribution angle to needing a live crowd. That is likely not enough to cover up the poor booking and overall criticism directed towards the group. However, the greatest bright spot of the angle was seeing Mustafa Ali be revealed as the leader of the group. There is little doubt that the moment would have received momentum from the crowd reaction and could have saved angle overall.
8. Keith Lee Debut
To be fair, the WWE hasn’t completely ruined Keith Lee. One would hope they don’t, but there is no doubt his momentum has significantly died down since his debut in August. Without having the WWE Universe to keep his momentum going with their live support, Lee has had to live or die by the booking. While the company still has time to do right by the 36-year old, many would agree he hasn’t exactly taken off.
7. Buddy Murphy Face Turn
Just like anything else, there are mixed feeling as it pertains to the Summer feud between Rey Mysterio’s family and Seth Rollins. It seemed like fans had more positive than negative things to say about the storyline. On the November 13th episode of Smackdown, Mysterio and Rollins faced off in a No Holds Barred match that was advertised as the “Final Chapter” of the feud. The match’s finish saw Rollins’ disciple Buddy Murphy attack his self-proclaimed savior and turn face in a wild ending to the match. After fighting for Mysterio’s approval to date his daughter Aaliyah, Murphy was accepted. Though the moment was great, there is no doubt a loud pop would have added to the end.
6. Dominick Mysterio
This might be a bit of cheating since Dominick Mysterio was a part of the Mysterio versus Rollins feud. However, after over 15 years in the making since first being spotted on WWE television in the infamous “I’m Your Papi” storyline, Dominick made his debut. He added such a fresh dynamic to his father’s feud with Rollins and could have certainly used the overall support of the crowd. The WWE did the best they could with the canned reactions, but as mentioned earlier, there is nothing that replaces the authenticity of a live audience.
5. Undertaker’s Farewell
After 30 years, the Undertaker has finally bid his farewell to the company. From where it all started, he made his last entrance for the WWE at Survivor Series. Just like everything else, the WWE tried to supplement the reaction and salvage the moment with the ThunderDome, but it doesn’t replace the reaction Undertaker gets each time he made his entrance for the company.
4. Edge’s WrestleMania Run
Edge was able to make his surprise return at the Royal Rumble to arguably the loudest pop in WWE history just before the company was forced to revert to crowd-less events. He was welcomed back to the WWE after suffering a major injury to his neck that forced him to retire in 2011. However, by the time WrestleMania came around, the WWE had already made the Performance Center their home. Edge competed in an impressive Last Man Standing match with Randy Orton. Edge stuck around after defeating Orton for a rematch at Backlash, also at the Performance Center. He suffered an unfortunate torn triceps at the event and hasn’t been around since.
3. Randy Orton’s Legend Killer Storyline
Speaking of Randy Orton, after Edge went down with a torn triceps, Orton used that injury to push his character further. He went back to his roots and revived his “Legend Killer” gimmick to the liking of wrestling fans everywhere. Orton eventually took out beloved legends such as Shawn Michaels, Big Show, Christian and Ric Flair. His entire 2020 would have been bettered with having a live crowd, as the 40-year old seemed more motivated than ever to show his greatness as a performer.
2. Drew McIntyre’s Entire 2020
The majority of fans can agree that McIntyre has been the second-most impactful star of 2020. The pop McIntyre received after winning the Royal Rumble was a small taste of the reaction he would have received after defeating Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. He has been the top babyface and has been received well by the majority of the WWE Universe. He is an anomaly in the sense that he appeals to Vince McMahon’s typical big guy favoritism, but is also respected and revered by the other side of the spectrum. There are so many pops that the 35-year old could have received in 2020. One can only hope that his momentum continues to grow as we move into 2021.
1. Roman Reigns Heel Turn
Notice when we mentioned McIntyre, we described him as the second-most impactful star of 2020. There is little room to debate that Roman Reigns has been the most impactful this past year. For years, the WWE was hoping to convince the fans that Reigns would be their top babyface in the company; similarly to how they have booked McIntyre. As 2020 has proven, the only thing WWE had to do was turn Reigns heel. Since Reigns returned as a heel and stole the Universal Championship from the Fiend and Braun Strowman at Payback, he has been the hottest thing on WWE television. Reigns aligned himself with Paul Heyman and has relished in his new role.